Rugby . . . A Game For All Shapes And Sizes, But With Especially Large Wallets

Rugby . . . A Game For All Shapes And Sizes, But With Especially Large Wallets

It’s a difficult time to be a Welsh rugby fan, says Robin Davey. If you’re not being asked to cough up more for international tickets, or told Lions tours are about to be slashed, then someone could be about to spill a pint over you unless you head for the “alcohol free” section.

Rampant commercialism has taken over rugby.

Player welfare is increasingly suffering, while fans are having to dig ever deeper into their pockets.

Only last week Premier Rugby in England, showing scant regard for the Lions, officially announced a new almost year-long revised season which resulted in the next Lions tour to South Africa being reduced to just eight matches in five weeks.

Then, it was discovered the Welsh and Scottish Rugby Unions planned to contribute nothing from the proceeds of Saturday’s match to the Doddie Weir motor neurone disease charity after which the game had been named.

There would be a bucket collection and a special dinner attended by Shaun Edwards and Gregor Townsend in aid of the charity, but nothing from the £3m generated from the game.

This was a scandalous state of affairs and many people on social media as well as respected pundits protested, so much so that the two unions relented and agreed to jointly donate a six-figure sum.

Not before time, but they should never have needed such prompting.

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It may well be that such an apparent mean spirit will be remembered by fans when it comes to purchasing international tickets in future.

Already, those tickets cost a small fortune with the best ones for Wales’ Six Nations games against England and Ireland at the stadium costing a whopping £110. It’s even more at Twickenham.

Small wonder. Therefore, that many Welsh clubs have loads of tickets for the autumn series on their hands, unable to get rid of them even though they are offering them at reduced prices.

Fans just don’t want tickets for these often rather artificial games in November, knowing that they are basically money-raising affairs and carry little real significance.

But as a result, clubs which are already struggling financially and are often unable to raise a team, now stand to lose thousands of pounds.

Having had their fingers burnt in this way clubs will be reluctant to order so many tickets in future which, in turn, will have a knock-on effect on the Union’s finances.

The WRU arrange a match outside the international window every year because they say they need the money in order to finance the game as a whole. But the pockets of fans are only so deep.

And another issue where money is heavily involved relates to the alcohol-free zone which is being introduced for the first time at Saturday’s Wales-Scotland game.

One specific area of the ground has been set aside specifically for fans who wish to be free of the booze culture which has so often wrecked their enjoyment.

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For far too long people have had to put up with an element in the crowd who seem to be there to sink as many pints as they can, regularly getting up from their seats while the game is going on and returning carrying trays of beer, sometimes spilling it over others while hurling abuse at those who object.

As a result a number say they will never go again, so the WRU have finally done something about it by introducing this alcohol-free zone.

But is it enough? Better still would be to close all the bars ten minutes before kick-off and keep them shut until the match is over.

Why don’t they impose such a ban for around ninety minutes? Again, the simple answer is money. There is far too much of it to be made.

Fortunately, the more acceptable side of the game was shown on Tuesday when around 10,000 fans turned up at the stadium to watch an open training session by the Wales squad.

Wales will be looking to extend a formidable record against Scotland in Cardiff where they haven’t lost to them since 2002.

They’ve won 14 of the last 16 matches against their Celtic rivals and despite a few injuries should extend that record.

The bigger southern hemisphere beasts of Australia and South Africa follow and Wales must beat one or both of them if they are to go into the Six Nations and the World Cup which follows on any kind of high.

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Australia are surely there to be taken a week on Saturday after falling away badly. Wales will surely never have a better chance of ending their dismal record of 13 defeats in a row against them.

In fact, they have won just once against Australia since Warren Gatland took over as coach in 2008.

Wales’ record against South Africa has improved after losing their first nine games against them under Gatland.

They have now won three of the last four, but the Springboks have suddenly started to hit their straps again, boasting a rare victory over the All Blacks on New Zealand soil last month.

The match at the Principality Stadium on November 24 promises to be the best of the autumn series.

But don’t put too much money – or what you have left of it – on a Welsh win!


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